- Do we want a society where income inequality is increasing exponentially and the purchasing power and strength of the middle and working classes in shrinking? Keep in mind the mantra of numbers “20-45-13”. Those are the percentages of wealth held by the top 1%, the top 10%, and the bottom 50% of the US population. Maybe for some this is good and healthy or “natural selection”—but for others it Is Not. So, What Is To Be Done? If not social engineering, tax reform, or government action: what? Who will fix this? Almost everyone agrees that Congress has become dysfunctional; more and more are agreeing that aspects of the US economy are increasingly dysfunctional.
- Closely related—and many of these points are just summaries of our previous posts—the rich are “devouring their own children—and themselves.” By the same, documented, reduced consumption power of the “bottom 75% of the population, their standard of living and, eventually, that of all but the most insulated of the super-rich are in jeopardy.
- Objections have been raised that some of this kind of talk is pushing “class warfare.” But class warfare is already a reality. Just not the kind that alarms conservatives and wealthy folks: that is, the demands of the weaker 50% for changes in the system from the top 1% or 10%. The class war that is The Reality: weakening regulations corporate/banks/environment/workplace, tax structure and loopholes, ability to shelter money overseas, demonization of government, attempts to disenfranchise or block registration of poorer and not-likely-Republican voters, the War on Labor, the War on Teachers, the corporatization and neutering of the media—These amount to class warfare of a kind not talked about, the Real War.
- “The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would take $1.6 trillion over 5 years to bring the nations bridges, dams, sewer systems, and other infrastructure up to good [not excellent] condition” (L. Mishel and L. Cleeland in Lardner and Lowenthal, Thinking Big, 2009, p. 11 That is a conservative estimates and represent a Lot of Jobs and a national project far more worthy than the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, probably most of Afghanistan, and arguably even the Apollo Moon missions. Lots of jobs here. It is certain that government and the private sector could work out an arrangement to create these jobs and rationally pull this off. The pathetic thing is that the political willpower and ideologizing has gotten in the way.
- The same could be said of education, where all of the big talking has been on teacher productivity and school responsibility and not putting money Into schools and teachers and teacher training. A lot of jobs here too. What is wrong with this picture: advanced European societies, with per capita incomes higher than the U.S.’s (mean) and Median incomes considerably higher, put far higher proportions of their national GDP and government budgets into education than does the US. The US is falling farther behind European and some Asian countries in this econo-educational indicators. And, again the wealth disparity, related to education equity, in the US has led to resemble the Russian and Latin American patterns [Brazil is actually catching up here] than to the European]. (Mishel and Cleeland, p.8) These authors also estimate, along with others, that revamping the physical plant of schools themselves is a minimum $20 billion project, the addressing of which would generate At Least 250,000 jobs. If this is socialism, bring it on.
- Health care- It is time to get off of the defensive in bringing 50 million Americans, especially in 2013-14, under national health care—of a sort. And the many other benefits of the Affordable Health Care Act. This blog makes no apologies for these benefits and urges the democrats to develop some more backbone and issue fewer disclaimers about flaws in the reforms, many of which were caused by concessions to the republicans in Congress, their far right constituencies, the “bought” (e.g. Fox) media.
7. National defense- Speaking of reordering priorities, The defense budget is still designed to protect a Cold War World (to say nothing of “Homeland Security” reality. The $700 billion currently spent (not including massive—and usually deserved veterans benefits, which arte, after all part of defense as well as being merited rewards for those who do the heavy lifting. Ex-defense officials turned policy scholars, such as Lawrence Korb of Brookings, have estimated, along with the Center for Defense Information, that easily 10-20% of defense costs could be trimmed with no impairment to the US world mission or any rational semblance thereof. More detail will follow in future columns, but the argument for sometime has focused on eliminating waste redundancy, duplication, mission creep and other dysfunctions, which, logically, must effect Defense bureaucracies as much as they effect all of the other public and private bureaucracies that we love to take aim at! (Excuse the pun).